On March 12, 1978, Italian-American Actor John Cazale’s life was cut short at the ripe young age of 42. In his short life, he appeared in five feature films, all from 1972-1978. Three of these films won the high prize of Best Picture at the Academy Awards, all five were nominated, and one of the two that didn’t win lost out to another (The Conversation was pitted against The Godfather, Part II).
Cazale found his way into the mainstream in the 1972 classic, The Godfather, as Fredo Corleone (perhaps his most memorable performance), who he also portrayed in the 1974 sequel, The Godfather, Part II.
His next role was Stan in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 classic The Conversation, where Cazale famously quoted the title of the movie with the line, “What a stupid conversation!”
His first film after working with Coppola was Dog Day Afternoon, where he portrayed Sal, an insecure bank robber and comrade-in-arms of Sonny (played by Al Pacino).
Cazale’s final role was Stan, in the 1978 Oscar winner for Best Picture, The Deer Hunter. We all remember the famous scene where Robert DeNiro’s character puts a gun in Stan’s face, “Stanley, see this!”
In March of 1978, before the filming of The Deer Hunter was complete, John Cazale broke our hearts when he died from complications related to bone cancer. An interesting fact: when the studio discovered that Cazale was weakening as a result of his bone cancer, they wanted to remove him from the film. This was not the case however, as lead actress Meryl Streep threatened to quit if they were to go forward with their threat. Director, Michael Cimino, in response, reorganized the shooting schedule and filmed all of Cazale’s scenes first.
More recently, Cazale was the subject of a documentary short, titled “I Knew it Was You”, a Richard Shepard film, which premiered at Cannes 2009.Read less